A Response to Trevor Timm’s “11 big questions for anyone cheering Gawker’s demise,” and answers for each one.
Yesterday, An Gawker advocate named Trevor Timm posted a series of questions for anyone celebrating Gawker’s demise, such as myself.
What follows are my responses as someone who, while not an attorney like Mr. Timm purports himself to be, is someone competent enough in the legal field to respond to his questions.
- Timm first asks if I should pause at the fact that a judge and court of appeal found Hogan’s video “newsworthy.” First and foremost, Mr. Timm fails to provide any actual order in which the judge/appeal court actually says this. In fact, his only link for “evidence” is a link to a tweet made by Gawker editor Sam Biddle, which was deleted. It kind of befuddles me that an attorney such as Mr. Timm would not check on PACER to find the actual order, but I guess at 10 cents a search/page, who cares about verification?
Let’s assume, however, that Mr. Timm is correct. Whether a judge says something is newsworthy or not is only valid until trial. The judge and the court of appeal may have said one thing, but what matters is a trial by one’s peers. The jury found Gawker to have wrongfully invaded Hulk Hogan’s privacy. That is all that matters.
Honestly though, I doubt the order said what Mr. Timm thinks it said, assuming it even exists, because were it so, there would be no case; it would be dismissed.
2. Timm tries to bamboozle people here by comparing Apples and Oranges. He is assuming that wrongful death and invasion of privacy share similar causes of actions, elements and damages, which you do not need to be a lawyer to see that they don’t. Hogan would continue to suffer pain and embarassment as he would still be alive. Can’t exactly be in pain if you’re dead. To specifically answer your question, however, the answer is up to interpretation. I personally believe it is just, but I’m sure we’ll be debating about it for months to come.
3. This question is basically full of complete and total hyperbole. It essentially equates Gawker’s judgment of $140 million with a death sentence, and then asks if the NYW or Daily Dot should have the same happen to them. Timm is once again trying to compare situations that have no real relation to each other. I mean seriously, information regarding military security vs. a sex tape? come on, Trevor.
4. The article Timm links to (and his rhetoric claiming they can’t appeal) is misleading. It’s not discussing an appeal. Rather, it’s Gawker’s attorneys trying to convince the judge to put a stay on Hogan being able to collect on a judgement until they file a motion. 9 times out of 10 these are denied in ANY case.
Gawker still retains the right to appeal the verdict, and probably will. Should Gawker prevail in the appeal, they can then compel Hogan to give the money back plus their costs.
6. Timm then asks if we are to agree with “ the variety of other lawsuits and legal threats that Gawker has endured from Peter Thiel’s lawyer.” He fails to mention any specifics so I really can’t comment on them. He also talks about libel cases that “ any first year law student can tell you are clearly protected by the First Amendment” and then fails to provide any such examples. Honestly, in defamation cases it’s not always cut and set in stone. That’s why we have things like Discovery, Depositions, and Trials in general.
None of this really matters though because the Hogan case isn’t about defamation, it’s about invasion of privacy.
7. Timm asks, “ Do you think that because Gawker’s demise is something you agree with that the same thing won’t happen to newspapers you like in the future?” I have no doubt it could happen to a newspaper I like. But considering most newspapers know better than to dance on the wild side the way Gawker did, I find it highly unlikely they will.
Timm also discusses how Trump once sued a reporter knowing he would lose just to bleed that person dry with legal fees. While this is indeed a lousy and dirty move, courts have also instutited tools to stop it, such as Anti-SLAPP laws. Furthermore, it’s not a move restricted simply to defamation either, but a problem that occurs in litigation in general. Many firms will engage in practices to lengthen cases just to bleed the other side dry. While courts are working on ways to curtail it, it will continue to be a problem in certain cases.
8. Peter Thiel can threaten whoever he wants about what Trump finds to be false. He has no standing to sue anyone though for that, and I doubt Trump would accept his money. I fail to see the point of this question anyway; if a news organization publishes something claiming facts they know to be false about a person, that’s illegal. Freedom of speech does not (and should not) protect libelous or defamatory speech. Whether the stories are valid or not is a matter for the court and a trial to decide.
9. Timm asks if it’s fair that former Gawker editor AJ Dauliero not have his defense paid for by Gawker and to have his assets frozen. Timm conveniently leaves out the fact that AJ allegedly lied to the court about how much his shares of Gawker are worth. Furthermore, unlike the other writers, Dauliero at the time of writing had not filed for bankruptcy protection, which could have helped protect his assets. Seeing that he did not, the attorneys took advantage as they ethically were obligated to to collect on damages.
Timm should very much be able to have a lawyer to defend him in court. Problem is, he can’t afford one. While unfortunate, it’s not like he’s being prevented from getting legal assistance.
10. Timm then asks if it’s fair and just that “more than a half dozen individual reporters are still being sued by Peter Thiel’s lawyer.” This question asks for an answer requiring ridiculous amounts of work in order to be proper as it is extremely overbroad. To make me review each and every one of these cases and determine if each is “fair and just” is outright ridiculous. Hence, I will not answer this question.
11. What Timm is describing is a complete twisting of the situation Gawker got itself into with Hulk Hogan. Gawker didn’t just post an article saying Hulk is an asshole or that Hulk said something stupid, they posted something that was considered PRIVATE of his, for his eyes only. Tell me, Trevor Timm, would you be ok if a sex tape with you was filmed and made public by a news organization without your permission? Hey, you’re an activist, so it must be newsworthy too, right?
Timm’s bonus question: “ When every newspaper is forced out of business by one billionaire or another who took issue with stories that many consider distasteful or deplorable or outrageous, how many newspapers will be left?”
My Answer: Who knows? New media outlets pop up all the time. There will be new ones to replace the old ones. Furthermore, this once again is a fallacious question that is essentially a slippery slope. Not all of the newspapers act as egregiously as Gawker did, and thus are far safer than Gawker.
Mr. Timm, if I were your opposing counsel, and your questions were your discovery, I would object to them on grounds of relevance, foundation, being overbroad and calling on laypeople (readers) to make legal conclusions about torts such as defamation and invasion of privacy. It is very clear that there is no assault on news media, and Peter Thiel merely took advantage of Gawker’s extremely obnoxious behavior, which clearly has crossed the line on more than one occasion.